Friday, July 20, 2012

Fifty Spades of Clay

Whilst a lot of women are spending these long and miserable rainy days musing about Christian and Anastasia in 50 Shades of Grey, I'm worrying about my plot... my soggy, saturated, waterlogged plot. I've barely been up to see it this year hence the scarcity of blog posts since spring. It just won't stop raining and it's the same story all across the UK so I can't blame the Welsh climate this time.

The 2012 plot plan has been rewritten as I cannot get the ground ready in time for potatoes and squashes. Everything is growing in the *raised beds this year including 4 varieties of squash.

I have pretty much given up on growing beans as well as they have been appalling this year and I'm normally a dab hand at growing anything podded. My broadbeans started well but then only grew to about 10cm tall, flowered slightly and created one measly bean before keeling over and rotting into the ground. Pathetic would be an understatement. Plus the slugs got to the one bean before I did so I couldn't do much with them except pull them all up and put them on the compost pile. No broadbeans this year sadly.

I think the only thing I can do this year is grow in the raised beds and spend the rest of the year clearing the other side of the plot in preparation for some new beds. The couch grass has gone bonkers so it needs to be strimmed, covered to rot and then turned over and weeded. It's going to be a long job that will take me into winter. I would start digging now but the ground is saturated. Even after a dry day, the top soil is solid but 6 inches down it's mushy and heavy and pretty much impossible to dig.

On a positive note, I'm growing tomatoes on the balcony at home and they're flourishing! I hope I don't get blight 30ft off the ground?! If the weather eases off I'll be able to grow some more delicate plants but whilst we're getting drowned in biblical rain I'll keep the seeds in their packets.

The rhubarb has been consistently wonderful and I've made about half a dozen crumbles this summer. When we get a bigger freezer I'll try and store them as I'd like to enjoy rhubarb in the autumn too. The rhubarb is sitting in a huge pile of couch grass however so Karl has offered to help me dig it out and replant in a few weeks in exchange for a couple of crowns (rhubarb, not 10 shillings!) and some nice ales down The Albany pub.

As you can see from the photos (taken in May), Spring had a good start with all the bees pollinating and spiders carrying eggs around. There was even blue sky! Since then we've had the wettest June on record and the first half of July has been riddled with flood and storm warnings. As I write this post, the sun is shining and the weekend is meant to be dry. Fingers crossed this is the UK's summer at long last?!

Bees Pollinating

Broad beans before they went soggy

Allotment essentials!

Raised beds full of plants

First rhubarb harvest of the year

Raised beds and overgrown patch opposite

Rhubarb looking plump!

Old rotten plants for the tip!

Spider with eggs

Strawberry plants flowering

Worzel might need a new hoodie!

*Special mention to Evergreen Wales for making my raised beds. Top gardeners and I doff my potting cap to them! You can find them at

Sunday, May 06, 2012

Allotment Layout 2012

It's taken me a couple of months to sort out my final allotment layout for 2012 but it's completed at last.

I'm sticking to my usual veggies this year with a couple of extra fun plants to see how they get on. I have a yellow ball courgette to try out and some Jerusalem Artichokes that my neighbour gave me. I have included Sarpo Mira spuds again this year as we didn't benefit from the ones that we planted last year. (Dave went over them with the strimmer by accident!) They're blight-resistant and unattractive to slugs so fingers crossed they do well. I have 12 tubers but I may also get some late cropping varieties if I have some room left.

The general plan is to put all delicate plants on the raised beds (beans, peas etc) and the hardy sprawling plants on the ground (potatoes, squashes...)

I have bags of seeds that haven't been used from last year so if I find some random space I will be sticking them in where suitable. Otherwise they're heading for the compost bin as they won't germinate. It's amazing how much excess you get each year. I need a bed just for "left over" seeds.

The raised beds have been lined and filled with more soil right to the top - they look fantastic!! Tempted to get the other side of the allotment done for next year as they look so good.

So far, the first batch of broad beans are in. They have been transplanted twice from the raised beds being made but they seem okay. I'm going to plant a second batch at home. The potatoes and jerusalem artichokes are next once I have dug over the ground beds again. Still plenty of couch grass to dig up.

I also cleared out some space in the green house so that the occupants of Plot 21B have somewhere to put their tools. A mouse jumped out of a bucket which scared the living daylights out of me whilst I was moving stuff around. Eek!

Just hoping the weather stays dry for more than 2 days to get the beds completed. Everything is still very wet and more rain is coming on Bank Holiday Monday. :(

Allotment Layout Plan 2012

Monday, April 30, 2012

New beds!

You wouldn't believe we had a heatwave in March would you? Droughts have been issued in certain parts of England despite much of the UK hiding under pure grey cloud. It's practically impossible to do anything with the relentless rain we have had for the last couple of weeks. Storms have brought down trees in the local area and my compost bin managed to fly about 20 ft down the plot. The greenhouse is just about holding itself together but it's far from watertight. The plot is one long squelchy bog.

I have, however, had a little help this year with a new raised bed system that has been installed on one side of the plot. It's not quite completed but I am mightily impressed by what has been built so far. I've had to move some plants in anticipation of some wonderful new fresh soil that will be delivered fairly soon. More details on this in my next blog post. :)

I've ordered most of my seeds for this year and the plot layout plan for 2012 is nearly finished. Just a couple more tweaks and I'll upload it for viewing. Having half a plot means that I have to be strict about where everything goes but I hope that this also means that I will be neater with my planting too. The new bed system should help with this.

Here's a picture of the plot so far, the beds should be cleared of rotten wood and fresh soil added in the next week or so. Very excited about my plot this year! Rhubarb already looking very tasty!!

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Monday, March 26, 2012

Lady Mary Allotments

I have just stumbled across this article about Lady Mary Allotments. It's a lovely piece that features a video interview with Richard and Judith who manage the plots.

I'm surprised I haven't see this before but I'm glad I found it. The original article is here:

I have embedded the video below. (Yes, my plot features in it but you wouldn't recognise it!)

Sunday, March 04, 2012

Winter Clearing

We had a significantly milder winter this year with a minimal sprinkling of the white stuff in December. Last year's bitter weather didn't kill off the blight so I fully expect tomatoes to be a no-grow area again this year. Shame.

The plot hasn't been particularly frozen or water-logged (so far) so it has been fairly easy to dig. The couch grass has taken over unfortunately so that has been testing my back this month. Trying to find where the paths were??

The strawberries have been particularly tricky as well, they decided to grow on the concrete?! I tried to control the new runners last year but it was near impossible so they are in a bit of a tangle now. Will need to net them from the birds this year as they had a feast last summer.

I also dug the brassica patch where the kale and cabbages were growing. They both grew really well but the slugs had a feast on the cabbages which was annoying. I know the soil is perfect for them but I have to booby trap each plant to get anything close to a non-nibbled brassica. Planting cabbages are a 'maybe' this year.

My neighbour kindly gave me some Jerusalem Artichokes to grow as well so I dug over the bed by the greenhouse. Think I will make the bottom end of the plot potatoes and roots as the soil is quite deep there.

I also have new neighbours at the back of the plot. I am now Plot 21A and the back is 21B. A family are now working the land at the back and are making good progress in turning the soil over. This makes managing the allotment so much easier for me as I have half the land to manage and at half the cost.

Compost Bin area cleared and covered

First bed cleared

Strawberries tamed - sort of!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Sharing the plot

Over the past 6 years the plot has been shared by Karl, Dave and myself. It's been thoroughly enjoyable but unfortunately the last two years have been particularly difficult as Karl bought a house far away from the plot and Dave is looking to do the same this year having got married in 2010. This means that I have been struggling to manage 8 x 25 sq metres on my own and it's impossible to find the time to look after that amount of land.
So, when the renewal came through I wasn't sure what to do.

I went to the plot on Sunday to have a look around and decide the fate of my hobby. I pottered around the greenhouse sorting through tools and rubbish and nearly jumped through the roof when a rodent jumped out of a box! Whilst there I bumped into Sheila, a face everyone knows on the plot and an excellent gardener. I explained my situation and she sympathised.

"Don't leave", she said, "I would miss you terribly".
(Well that was a lump to my throat!) "Why don't you share it and cut the cost as well?"

Sound advice I thought and Sheila kindly spoke to the committee to help me find a plot sharer. I've just sent off the forms to share the plot so we will see what happens. I'm a bit nervous about having a new plot partner but hopefully it will be okay. I'll keep the front half and they can have the back half. I just can't manage both unfortunately.

Greenhouse/Shed needs clearing out to share but I can do that within a couple of hours. I just hope the mouse/rat isn't in there any more!!

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